Across the Tasman Sea, last year's New Zealand Derby hero Xcellent won similarly in tearing past the leaders at the end of the Hawkes Bay Challenge (NZ-I) to remain unbeaten in his homeland.The Pentire son roared home at the end of the Hastings 1,400 meters to defeat group I winner Miss Potential by three-quarters of a length, Danehill son Shinzig was a close up third.
Just 25 days after being crowned Australian Horse of the Year, Makybe Diva racked up more firsts with a winning return to the track at Melbourne's Caulfield Aug. 28.The Diva has conquered long and hard at middle distances and beyond, for two Melbourne Cups and this year's weight-for-age spoils in the Australian Cup and Tancred Classic (all Aust-I).But the champion distaffer had not won first up, or on the underside of a mile -- her only success at 1,600 meters against maidens. So her latest challenge in the Memsie Stakes (Aust-II) at 1,400 meters might have seemed too sharp but not for a muddy track.Sent postwards at 13-2 against solid opposition the 6-year-old swamped her rivals in the final stages to win by a long neck from Gilded Time's talented 4-year-old Barely a Moment.The 6-4 favorite Regal Roller was another half-head away in third, after setting the pace. That the 1:26.75 was more than six seconds outside the track record was due to the conditions.Makybe Diva, in widening her resume, added $130,000 (Australian funds) to her $9 million-plus earnings for her owner/breeder, Tony Santic.Jockey Steven King, sitting in for the suspended Glen Boss, declared the mare on target for the $3 million Cox Plate (Aust-I and 2,040 meters) at Moonee Valley Oct. 22. The interim race planned is the Oct. 1 Turnbull Stakes (Aust-II, 2,000 meters).Santic and her conditioner, Lee Freedman, might consider a third Melbourne Cup attempt, firstly in the hands of the Victoria Racing Club's handicapper, Greg Carpenter. He releases his assessments Sept 1. She carried 55.5kg (122 pounds) and a mitigating factor will be that she is seven.